The smart grid is a key solution to the world’s rising power consumption. By 2040, there will be a 69% increase in net electricity generation to meet demands with an estimate 36.5 trillion kilowatthours (kWh), up from 21.6 trillion kWh in 2012. In addition, environmental concerns continue to rise, driving governments and businesses to invest in renewable, cleaner energy options.
These two factors, among others, are adding stress to today’s aging power grids. As a result, governments and companies are looking at more advanced technologies to make their grids smarter, more efficient and more capable to balance energy sources and delivery demands.
Here are three advancing technologies that will make the smart grid smarter and bring benefits to governments, business and citizens alike.
Artificial intelligent automation
A key feature in today’s smart grid solution is automation. Yet, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are going to give automation a significant boost. Leveraging technologies that can learn from its experiences will enable electricity to automatically be bought and sold in real time according to a variety of variables that will bring cost efficiencies to utility companies, governments, businesses as well as customers. In the same vein, the grid will seamlessly switch between energy sources to balance the load on grids while making more efficient energy choices.
AI will also introduce operational efficiencies. Learning technologies can proactively make adjustments to avoid issues; or in the event something goes wrong automatically self-correct to resolve the problem.
The transition to the smart grid, at least for consumers, begins with the smart meter. With 165.5 million units expected to reach consumers’ hands by 2020, up from 59.6 million in 2012, there’s no wonder why this is the case.
As IoT technology continues to advance, so does the smart meter. In addition to recording energy consumption data and report costs, IoT-enhanced smart meters will be able to indicate quality of the power as well as voltage and can be used to perform energy audits to detect blackout areas, tampering and other discrepancies.
With the smart meter in hand, utility companies have access to data that can become a launching pad to a new industry of app-based services that sit between them and their customers. The potential is limitless and can offer perks to utility companies and consumers as well as support government energy targets.
One example is Facebook’s recent partnership with Opower and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Together, the trio have developed an open social media app that will allow customers of national utility companies to benchmark their energy use against similar homes, compare usage with friends and enter energy-savings competitions and share efficiency tips.
As each of these advance the smart grid, the challenge of security will remain front and center, identifying ways to protect the smart grid itself as well as the private data customers and their utility company transmit.